Ferrari 312T4 & F1 126C

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“If it’s true that life is like a film, I was lucky enough to act in it, to be the screenwriter, the main protagonist and the director of my way of life” Gilles Villeneuve


Fame isn't always matched by results. Sometimes, like in the case of Gilles Villeneuve, the man becomes the legend, due to his uniqueness, making his fans dream, beyond simple performance. With his way of being, his courage and his generosity the young Villeneuve conquered a whole generation of motorsport fans.


Born in Quebec in 1950 into a middle-class family, he immediately confirmed his great passion for mechanics and speed. When he was 17 years old Villeneuve was the undisputed champion in the world of snow mobile racing - where he not only won numerous competitions, but also came up with some serious innovations.


He earned and invested, even taking out loans, following his dream: racing in Formula 1. When he got married and his son Jacques was born he started in the Formula Atlantic, the most important single-seater championship in Canada. It wasn't a great season, but after many sacrifices the first positive results came in 1975,enabling him to continue racing the following year. Gilles had an exceptional start into the season and McLaren called him to race in the Pau GP in Formula 2, an important stage for upcoming drivers.

 

Also this time things didn't go too well, but when he came back to Canada, he won his first title in the Formula Atlantic. His real launch in F1 came with the race at Trois-Rivieres, where Gilles signed a contract over five races in Formula1 as the third McLaren driver, where he could demonstrate his aggressive style and extraordinary capacity to control the car. But the English team didn't recognise his capacities. He was then embraced by Enzo Ferrari, who was looking for a young driver with little experience, to demonstrate that it was the car the not the driver who counted on the track. The little-known Villenueve was picked for this objective. In this strange way one of the most exciting chapters in the history of racing began. Not much later Niki Lauda left and the new Ferrari driver was sitting in the 312 T2. Low performance and trouble keeping the car on the track was what happened and everybody spoke about Gilles. Despite his lack of experience and few victories the Drake confirmed him for the following season, when he raced with Reutemann, with the new 312 T3. Villeneuve improved a lot. The season1978 was not easy either, but Gilles started to get the right feeling with the team and the mechanics.


His day came on 8 October 1978 in Montreal. Gilles gave it his all and conquered his first win with a Ferrari after a great race crossing the line with over 260 km/h. The following year Ferrari started with a legendary drivers' couple: Scheckter-Villeneuve. Although Gilles had only won three races in 1979 the “Villeneuve fever” was in the air. Mishaps made him extremely popular and every race with him on the track turned into an adventure. His popularity peaked, although in 1980 a terrible year for Ferrari started, with a T5 difficult to hold on the track. The Canadian magician gave it his all, risking a lot with many accidents, luckily without injuries for himself. In 1981 Ferrari, with the new 126 CK, teamed Villeneuve up with the French Didier Pironi. Gilles won only two races this year, but became more and more popular. The 1982 126 C2 was more competitive, giving the team a boost. In Imola the Ferrari drivers lead the field changing positions during the whole race, bringing home a double-win, with Pironi crossing the line first.


In Belgium Gilles, who was still upset about the race in Imola, tried to drive a better time than his teammate while the track was still wet. On the first lap he collided with Mass, due to the massive impact he was catapulted out of his car. Gilles died at the age of 32 at the Lovanio hospital due to his heavy injuries.
Villeneuve raced in Formula 1 for six years and started in 67 races. His incomparable driving style was always at the limit and will remain in his fans' hearts forever.

1979 312 T4

Ferrari stormed back to victory with the 312 T4 in 1979, dominating both Championships. The battle for the Drivers’ title turned into a duel between Villeneuve and South African Jody Scheckter, who won three races each, but the latter eventually triumphed due to a more consistent performance. The 312 T3 was used for the first two races of 1979. In fact, the T4 made its debut in South Africa and immediately won two races. Another double, this time at Monza, brought further glory: a win for Villeneuve and the Championship for Scheckter. The car was a further evolution of the T series which brought three Drivers’ and four Constructors’ titles to Maranello, but the transverse dimensions of the engine’s horizontally opposed cylinder layout were at odds with its aerodynamic development. To overcome this problem, the Ferrari technicians broadened its flanks still further to house the air intakes that would channel air to the radiators and to the intake ducts. The suspension was redesigned too to minimise drag, while the rear brakes were inboard to reduce the non-suspended mass and improve grip and traction control.

 

 

 

Type

   

 

   rear, longitudinal 180° flat-12

Bore/stroke

   80 x 49.6 mm

Unitary displacement

   249.31 cc

Total displacement

   2991.80 cc

Compression ratio  

   11.5 : 1

Maximum power

   379 kW (515 hp) at 12,300 rpm

Power per litre

   172 hp/l

 

 

Valve actuation

   twin overhead camshafts per bank,          four valves per cylinder

 

Fuel feed

   Lucas indirect injection.

Ignition  

   Electronic, single spark plug    per cylinder

 

Lubrication

 

  dry sump

Clutch

  multi-plate

1981 126 CK

The introduction of the 126 CK in 1981 hailed the official start of the Ferrari twin turbo era. In Maranello, the Scuderia dragged its feet about taking the new engine to the tracks, both to make the most of the naturally aspirated engine and because it wanted to try out another type of compressor, the Comprex, which was used in the 126 CX. Although theoretically very interesting, the new device turned out to be difficult to perfect for racing engine purposes. It was abandoned and the only turbocharged single-seater that remained was the 126 C.

The 120° V6 engine was totally different from the normally aspirated 12-cylinder as it was both shorter and narrower. However, it also required that a whole new car be designed that would retain the big side pods that now contained heat exchangers for the compressed air for the engine. The front suspension was traditional with the upper rocker arm working the internal spring, while the rear suspension had wishbones with adjustable arms.

With Scheckter gone, Gilles Villeneuve was joined by a young French driver, Didier Pironi. The Canadian won at both Monte Carlo and Jarama, confirming his huge talent on the track. However, reliability was still a problem and this prevented Ferrari and its drivers from getting into a really tight battle for the world title which was won, in the very last race, by Brazilian Nelson Piquet.

 

Type                         rear, longitudinal 120° V6

Bore/stroke                81 x 48.4 mm

Unitary displacement   249.40 cc

Total displacement      1496.43 cc 

Compression ratio       6.7 : 1

Maximum power         419 kW (570 hp) at 11,500 rpm

Power per litre            381 hp/l

 

Valve actuation           twin overhead camshafts per bank,                                              four valves per cylinder

 

Fuel feed                    single Comprex supercharger, Lucas-                                          Ferrari electronic, indirect injection.

Ignition                       Electronic, single spark plug per cylinder                                                

Lubrication                  dry sump

Clutch                         multi-plate.

Sources: formula1.ferrari.com

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